Thursday, November 3, 2005

Editorial: Bonds have local payoff

Published in the Current

(Nov 3, 2005): In a time of high fuel prices, rising property taxes and state revenue problems, many people are saying that borrowing more money is not what Maine should be doing. We are being asked to do so on the Nov. 8 ballot, in five separate questions.

Some of the bonds include money for local projects, while others support programs that have helped local efforts in the past. Those benefits direct to you and other local residents, while not the only reason to consider supporting some or all of the bonds, are worth remembering when deciding what borrowing is acceptable to you when you vote.

Question 2, a $33.1 million bond for improvements to the state’s transportation network, includes $3.5 million for ferry vessels and port facilities, in particular rebuilding the pier at Fort Preble in South Portland, which would benefit the public as well as the marine science program at Southern Maine Community College, which has also raised $350,000 in private donations for the project.

The bond also includes money for projects in Cape Elizabeth: to repave Shore Road from Fort Williams Park to Route 77, and Spurwink Road from the Spurwink Church north for two miles; in Scarborough: to repave Pleasant Hill Road from Hackmatack Drive half a mile toward Route 77; in South Portland: to repave Foden Road from Western Avenue to Gorham Road, to help build a new bus garage for the city’s bus service and additional money for widening Western Avenue, according to John Duncan of the Portland Area Comprehensive Transportation Committee.

There are several other local projects in the state’s plans that would either be constructed or move up in the to-do list, including repaving projects in all three communities, according to Herb Thomson of the Maine Department of Transportation.

Question 3, an $8.9 million bond for agriculture and water treatment, does not include any money intended directly for our three communities, but similar bonds in the past have supported the Portland Water District’s efforts to maintain a secure and clean water supply for its customers.

Question 4, for $20 million in medical research and small business investments, includes $8 million in biomedical research funds, from which the Maine Medical Center Research Institute and the Foundation for Blood Research, both in Scarborough, are two of only six agencies eligible for grants. It also supports the Maine Technology Institute’s grant programs, which have benefited countless small businesses in Scarborough, Cape Elizabeth and South Portland, supporting both startups and existing firms with growth and new product development.

Question 5 asks for $12 million for the Land for Maine’s Future program. This program has contributed significantly to protection of open space in Cape Elizabeth and Scarborough, including the William H. Jordan Farm and the Meserve Farm properties, landmark farms now preserved with the help of state, federal, local and private dollars.

Question 6, for $9 million for higher education, would allocate $2 million to match $4 million in private donations to improve the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Southern Maine and $5 million for renovations to community colleges, including Southern Maine Community College, which would get $1.3 million to renovate the health science building, which houses the nursing program and other medical-related classes serving more than 1,000 students every year, according to a college spokeswoman.

Not all of the money in the bonds will come to local projects, firms or residents. But enough of them will to merit your thoughtful consideration when balancing the costs of more state borrowing with the benefits of these particular bonds.

Go to the polls

Remember to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8. See Page 3 for poll locations and hours, and remember that if you can’t make it that day, you can contact your municipal clerk to vote in advance by absentee ballot.

Casting a ballot is your right as a citizen of a democracy. And without participation, government cannot represent everyone. Please be sure to have your say.

Jeff Inglis, editor